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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Blood supply in Inland Northwest at its lowest since start of pandemic, so Vitalant is looking for donors

UPDATED: Thu., Oct. 21, 2021

Benjamin Chadduck gives blood during a blood drive at Freeman High School in May. Vitalant says there is a critical blood shortage in the Inland Northwest right now.  (Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-R)
Benjamin Chadduck gives blood during a blood drive at Freeman High School in May. Vitalant says there is a critical blood shortage in the Inland Northwest right now. (Libby Kamrowski/ THE SPOKESMAN-R)

Blood donors are needed now more than they have been since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Vitalant, the region’s blood bank, announced there is a critical shortage of blood, particularly Type O blood, which is below a two-day supply in the Inland Northwest.

“Especially with Type O and platelets, we haven’t seen a level this low since the start of the pandemic,” said Erin Baker, Vitalant’s senior donor recruitment manager in the Northwest. “It’s not a great situation to be in.”

It is unusual to have a blood shortage in October, Baker said.

Typically during early summer months or the holidays, there are shortages, but this year shortages stretched into fall.

Vitalant relies on blood drives or mobile blood donations to make up the majority of the blood supply, but with the delta variant surging, offices and companies, as well as high schools, canceled blood drives.

As a result, there’s less blood on shelves.

There has also been an increase in demand for blood, Baker said.

Normally, if a Vitalant location is running low on supply, it can reach out to other Vitalant banks around the country.

Currently, that strategy won’t work as the whole system is experiencing a critical shortage.

Blood donation shortages have the potential to impact patient care.

Type O-negative is the universal blood type typically used for patients in emergency rooms who need a lot of blood quickly before providers can determine their blood type .

Type O-positive blood is the most common blood type, which can be used on any other positive blood type. Both Type O-positive and O-negative donations are below a two-day supply.

Blood donation rules have changed in the last year, Baker said, encouraging those who are interested in donating, but unsure if they are eligible, to check the new guidelines.

For example, tattoo and travel deferrals have changed, with new adjustments from the Food and Drug Administration.

People who have received the COVID-19 vaccine can donate blood, and if you’ve had COVID-19, you can donate blood two weeks after your last symptom is gone.

Baker asked the community to step up and donate blood, especially ahead of a particularly busy, strained time for supply.

“What’s scary or different about this particular shortage is we can expect to have lower blood inventory around the holidays, and if we’re already seeing it like this now, then the holidays could be potentially really bad,” Baker said.

To find out if you are eligible to donate blood or to schedule a time to donate, visit vitalant.org or call (877) 25-VITAL.

Arielle Dreher's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.

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